Ed Matus is a man many of you know. Some of us remember him fondly as the Cheers guy back in the day, some remember his ultra-loud racket with local outfit Subliminal Criminal, the jazzier extremes of indie rock with Swivelstick, or some maybe even remember him from his short foray as a sponge diver in Tarpon Springs.
Regardless of all that, most locals know him now as a member of the spacey New Wave act the Waterford Landing. We had a chance to catch up with him recently and here's what he had to say.
New Times: Okay, first off, who are you, what do you do and what are your thoughts concerning having your balcony's view taken away by some megalithic condominium?
Ed Matus: My name is Ed Matus. I am a musical composer, programmer and currently a synthesist/guitarist for The Waterford Landing. In addition to my work with The Waterford Landing, I also produce and perform experimental electronic music under the names HALO Vessel as well as my own name. I am also a longtime veteran of the Miami local music scene, and I have the distinction of having played guitar for Subliminal Criminal, Swivelstick, and Cavity among many other groups from Miami.
Though I think it's creepy that you should ask me about my balcony, I can't resist answering. Sometimes I feel I'm in a J.G. Ballard novel.
When you are exposed to that much humanity, you're bound to see some very interesting and disturbing things. It's very strange because you try your hardest to mind your own business, but then the insanity spills out on to the streets and you just can't help it. We call it "Saturday Night Drama."
It's like street theater. Sometimes it's hilarious, other times you wonder if you should call the cops. In spite of all that, I do like it here. I like it more than suburbia, which likes to hide its vice and violence behind its glossy veneer.
What are your thoughts and impressions concerning your time with Subliminal Criminal, now that some years have passed, and do you still consider yourself a creative subversive?
When Subliminal Criminal ended, I tried like hell to shake it off and do something radically different which is why I decided to explore my interest in experimental electronic music. With passing I have to say that I absolutely love that band. It was definitely like no other group I have been in since or before, and I consider it an honor to have been involved with monster consummate musicians such as Anthony Cina, John Lopez and Kris King (former drummer for Against All Authority). Aside from a couple of things I would have done differently on the album, I think it's very good.
It's well-produced, the songwriting is strong, and it shows off what made us so different from the other bands from that period. We were loud as hell and we only had three guys in the band. I was always proud of that. The only regret I have is that we didn't record more music.
The first line up, with John playing drums was not just a band. It was something akin to a philosophical study group for renegade students looking to form their own new school. We used to rehearse 5 times a week for hours on end, and then have a nice chat about politics and whatever other subjects tickled our fancy after rehearsal.
After John left, we recruited Kris King. Kris King was the very picture of bravery for stepping into some pretty big shoes, and also for experiencing the ultimate trial by fire: his first gig with us was opening for Bad Religion, and he did fantastic.
I still check out the self-titled album every now and then, and I think most of it has aged pretty well. When I started to write and perform experimental electronic music, I caught all types of hell from some Subliminal fans. They probably thought I was playing techno or something.
I knew most people would probably scratch their heads, but I ran into some people who were downright outraged! And these people weren't even going to see any of my electronic shows. They were people who heard that I was doing "electronic stuff" and they weren't having it.
If they had come to see any performances they would have discovered that even though I was messing around in a completely different genre, my approach was similar to what I had done in the other bands I played in. It was just as aggressive, destructive, distorted and loud. The only difference was that I wasn't doing it with a guitar.
The Waterford Landing has been called a pop group, and for the most part it is, but it's pop done our way. In that sense, I am a subversive. The music is not being subverted. It's the audience's expectations that are being subverted.
I'm sure people ask about the old Miami band Ed Matus' Struggle. Regardless of the connection, but what exactly is your "struggle" and if you could inflict a nickname on Juan Montoya, what would it be?
The struggle is definitely real, and in essence it's against the idea of the "one size fits all" society. Mediocrity is the order of the day, and we are all worse off for it. We see it in media with the sports like approach to reporting. We see it in Hollywood with ridiculous remake after ridiculous remake. We see it in music, art, literature, and worse of all, education.
Kids are being taught that success is to get all they can while they can. There's no emphasis on analysis and critical thinking. Curriculum is being shunned so that they can be taught how to pass a standardized test, instead of learning how to get along in life happily. As a result, we have a society of corruption and dishonesty.
The worst thing of all is the idea that everything has to be dumbed down in order to get the attention of the biggest audience possible. Society is being tailor made for this phantom audience. Once you make a decision as an artist to dumb down your work, it is worthless. And it is also telling of your contempt for your audience and the assumption that everyone is beneath you.
I always enjoyed the work of individuals who assumed their audience was as smart as they were. I may have to watch or read everything more than once, but at least I become a better person for having explored said work in the first place. There's no reason why we shouldn't be able to bring individuals up, instead of keeping everyone down in this imaginary limbo while stifling the best among us. The phantom audience is not real! The emperor has no clothes! Carousel is a lie! The struggle continues.
I have two nicknames for everyone in my life. One is the private nickname which I can't reveal, and the other is the public nickname which I have no problem divulging. Alex Caso and I always referred to Montoya as "The Pope", because he knows everyone. He's almost like a Colombian Kevin Bacon in the sense that at some point or another, people always have him in common. Imagine that: Six degrees of Juan Montoya!
For a while, before The Waterford Landing, you were getting prolific with the electronic music and had a label set-up. What's the deal with that and how can we find those releases?
Audio Electric will re-launch in mid August and will make their entire catalog available for free on their website which is audioelectric.net. The first free release will be the 2002 HALO Vessel E.P., Honest Men.
Every month thereafter, they will release more free downloads from myself and other artists on the label such as Living Stereo and Audionaut. They will still sell stuff such as the vinyl pressing of Honest Men which is limited and is available in white vinyl as well. And there are other releases on the label with special packaging, which will also be available in very small quantities.
This is a great opportunity to put out tons of stuff I've had lying around for years, which we couldn't release at the time because we simply didn't have the funds to do it. In addition to the HALO Vessel stuff on Audio electric, I'll be putting up more free releases under my own name on The Burning Hand of Friendship.
That will all be new stuff, and I currently have three full-length releases just waiting for artwork and away they go. All will be free for anyone who wants it, and it's all very worthwhile if I do say so myself. I also played guitar on the Dayseeds record, which is a project with Ed Artigas and Daisy Alvarez. That should be out by the time this goes to press. I'm also currently working on a film soundtrack with director Gus Aviles. And finally, there are a couple of new collaborative efforts which are currently in the works.
What's happening with The Waterford Landing now? Any gigs coming up? Recordings? Transmissions from outerspace?
I am happy to report that we have finished mixing the gargantuan work that is our second full length album, In the Heart of Zombie City. Within the next couple of weeks, we will be mastering the album, finalizing the artwork, and it should be ready for a mid fall release. We are very proud of the outcome and we simply can't wait to hear people's reactions because it's very different than our first album.
This one features more guitars; there are a couple of songs with live drums and more than a few surprises. We wrote so much music and even with the stuff we decided to leave off the album, the final sequence has 16 tracks. The whole album is over one hour and it still flies by. It plays and sounds like a movie for your ears.
I imagine that we will be playing a few shows later in the fall for the release of the album. People ask me why we don't play live as often as other bands do, and that's for lots of different reasons.
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First, we really want to do something special every time we perform. The show we played at OHWOW Gallery is indicative of what we'd like to do more of. We want to bring more of a visual element into our performance instead of just presenting three guys onstage. Another reason is that instead of burning out our audience, we want to make each appearance special.
I always hate it when a friend's band plays eight shows in one month in the same city, and they expect you to show up to every single show. That starts to feel like churchgoing after a while, and we would rather play fewer shows and have more people come to see us per show.
If we were touring, that would be a different thing altogether. We have many things in store for the future. With all the stuff we left off the album, we have enough material for another full length, and there are a couple of other projects we will work on, once In the Heart of Zombie City is out.